Once you get old enough to be a ‘gaffer,’ it’s all the rage to complain about the younger generation. My parents did it, theirs did as well and it probably goes back to the cave men. Not that I consider myself a gaffer, but I’m old enough to rate.
Fact is that kids read and write way more than they ever did, they just don’t do it on paper. But they’ll run you over on the street, thumbing away on their phones and scrolling replies like their lives depended on it. And maybe they do, at least in their minds. In my day we worried about being left out of the conversation and outside the circle, outside the tribe.
Today’s tribe is online, but the writing is writing and the reading is reading, even though it doesn’t register with we oldsters. There’s a pants-on-fire fear of being left behind by kids of all generations, it’s only the technology that changes. Print books are out, e-books are in and social media is the current lingua franca. So, what’s a traditional writer to do?
Keep on keeping on is the answer. Doomsayers tell you readership is in decline across all age groups, but that’s by percentage and even the percentages haven’t dropped much. The 60% of young people who read for pleasure twenty years ago has dropped to 54% but that still means more than half are reading in their spare time. Just because they’re unlikely to have a book in their backpack doesn’t mean they’re not reading an e-book on their phone.
And that’s an interesting phenomenon in its own right. While you or I might take some pleasure in having a home library, those books are a pain in the ass to move and most folks move more today than ever, as jobs take them who knows where. E-books changed all that. With an e-book reader you can download thousands of books to your computer, accessing them from your phone if you like, anywhere you like. I happen to have a thousand books on shelves in my living room, but I haven’t moved in almost twenty years and simply love to be surrounded by the books I’ve read. These days you can keep them in your pocket and when you open one it takes you automatically to the last page read. How cool is that?
One of my favorite book stories has to do with Abdul Kassem Ismael, Grand Vizier of Persia in the 10th century. He always traveled with his entire library, carried on the backs of 400 camels, trained to walk in alphabetical order.
Four hundred camels or a single computer under your arm…it’s a choice.